by Tony Brown, Staff Writer
Published: September 12th, 2013
This vacant land and building, formerly the Simpson’s Lighting Showroom, sits at South and West Carson boulevards, on the northern end of South End. It is slated to become a $50 million apartment/office/garage development. The “pink building” in the background is properly but less popularly known as the Arlington apartments. Photo by Tony Brown
Call it what you want, but South End, which was largely carved out of an industrial, railroad-crossed section of westernmost Dilworth in the 1990s, when people thought developer Tony Pressley might be a little nutty, is now rapidly spreading far beyond the traditional boundaries of its historic district.
It can’t go east; Dilworth is established and leading a residential real estate comeback. It can’t go north; uptown isn’t going anywhere.
So go west – and south – young dwellers and urban developers!
To the west, new apartment complexes are gobbling up chunks of long-downtrodden but proud Wilmore, where single-family property prices are rising, too, as more out-of-town investors and first-time buyers, fresh out of nearby apartments, are snapping up fixer-uppers at bargain prices and fixing them up to resell or to live in.
A block west of Faison’s Summit at Church apartment complex construction site, at Summit Avenue and Church Street, a one-acre vacantplot at Southwood and Summit avenues that overlooks uptown from a hill is up for sale by MPV Properties and has been getting inquiries from both multifamily and office developers.
Even farther west, and slightly north, by another few blocks, across South Mint Street from the anything-but-little landmark Little Hardware, a brick building is undergoing renovation to become the 14,000-square-foot home of the Unknown Brewing Co., complete with tap room.
The south end of South End is looking even riper for growth.
Multifamily projects and lots of retail are already going up and planned, expert observers of real estate trends said, extending the South End brand into the Sedgefield neighborhood vicinity.
The South End submarket, they said, is now primed to go even farther south.
And, they said, the Publix that is scheduled to be built at South Boulevard at Iverson Way – right across from the Lowe’s home improvement store – will finally give South End the last thing it was lacking to define it as a real neighborhood: a grocery store within walking and cycling distance to apartments, houses and offices.
Onward to Scaleybark
The 8:40 a.m. Lynx Light Rail Blue Line train leaves the station taking commuters to uptown offices. Developers plan two separate mixed-used developments on either side of the station, which sits in the middle of South Boulevard, and another developer plans an apartment complex nearby. Experts say the area will become south South End. Photo by Tony Brown
The Publix, which brings a shopping cart of cachet with it, will spur a spike in retail and restaurant development, the experts say, deeper south into the Yorkshire neighborhood.
One observer, John Culbertson of Cardinal Partners, says it won’t end until Scaleybark Road.
That’s where Pappas Properties and Cherokee Investment Partners have amassed land for a planned mixed-use development on one side of South Boulevard, while Crosland Southeast has visions of another across the road. Myers Chapman is getting in on the act, too, with sketches of an apartment complex just south of the Pappas/Cherokee project.
The key to it all, Culbertson and others said, is the light rail.
The Lynx Light Rail Blue Line parallels South Boulevard and drives development now the same way the first Charlotte and South Carolina train did when it pulled into the Queen City on Oct. 21, 1852, which Dan Morrill, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, has called the most important day in the city’s history.
South End proper has three Lynx stops. The New Bern station, which is next down the line, is already popularly perceived as South Endish thanks to an upscale apartment complex that is the final evidence going down South Boulevard of the reach of new development.
Scaleybark is next.
“It has no other place to go,” said Walter Scholtz, a broker with Percival McGuire who represents three buildings in South End.
“The city dictated where the development is going to go with the rail corridor. We’re becoming more metropolitan. It’s hard to get people out of their cars in Charlotte, but it’s starting to happen in South End.”
Apartment submarket without equal
His father, Tony, who is retired to Blowing Rock and Florida, is widely credited by folks like Morrill as essentially inventing South End – erstwhile home to textile mills and the Lance Inc. snack food factory – in the early 1990s.
Charlotte-based MPV Properties owns this 1-acre tract in Wilmore, at the top of a hill at Summit Summit and Southwood avenues. The company has two plans for site: an office building and an aprtment project. Nearby residents hope projects such as this will make their neighborhood western South End. Photo by Tony Brown
“That’s when my dad hired me to go in there and start selling his premise, of restaurants and apartments,” the younger Pressley said. “I can remember going down there and looking around and thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’”
Pressley and Morrill both defined the original South End as being roughly between South Tryon Street/Camden Road to the west, South Boulevard to the east, Morehead Street/Interstate 277 to the north, and just below Atherton Mill to the south. “Maybe Remount Road/Ideal Way, but no farther south than that.” Pressley said.
But now that South End is booming, Pressley said, “other developers are looking to draw on the same name and success of what’s happened in South End, so they’re going beyond those old boundaries.”
“Look what happened in Myers Park,” Pressley said. “Look at the original boundary map, and it looks nothing like what Myers Park is today.”
Morrill concurred, noting a bit of irony: the now-franchise name was nearly not going to be South End.
“I actually participated in that,” Morrill said. “Tony consulted with me, and he was afraid it might be a controversial name. You know, ‘the south end of a northbound chicken’?”
Scholtz remembers that time too, even though he wasn’t yet in real estate.
“I can recall when the Spaghetti Warehouse moved into the old Nebel Knitting Co. mill on West Worthington (Street), in what, 1991?” Scholtz said. “I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of.”
There is still some undeveloped and underutilized land within those traditional South End boundaries such as the small, 1-acre strip mall Scholtz leases at 1427 South Boulevard, home to Custom Trophy & Engraving Service, a nail salon, a hair salon and the Charlotte headquarters of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I was just counting the other day,” Scholtz said, “and I’ve had 57 people – developers – ask me about buying it. Fifty-seven. But the thing is, the people who originally developed it over 40 years ago just want to hold onto it to derive a steady income from it. It’s that old-Charlotte mentality.”
Just up and across the street from the strip mall sits the former and now uninhabited Simpson’s Lighting Showroom and a vacant lot, at South East Carson boulevards just behind the expansive parking lot for the Time Warner Cable headquarters on East Morehead.
A Texas-based developer, identified in property records as both 1100 South Boulevard Partners LLC and 1200 South Boulevard Partners LLC, has pulled $45 million in building permits since January to build an apartment and office complex with a parking garage on the 2.9-acre site, but so far nothing has risen there this summer but weeds. In addition to fronting on South and Carson, the land backs up to the Lynx line. According to property records, the Texans bought the land in 2008 for $5.56 million.
Apart from such opportunities, what started out as South End is quickly getting built out. But more and more developers want in on the action.
“There are very few places in the Carolinas where land is as expensive as it is in South End,” Culbertson said. “There are no submarkets in North Carolina that have the number of apartment units coming out of the ground than South End. And, I would venture to say, there are more apartments coming out of the ground than were absorbed across the city in all of 2011.
“There are wedges of land left that could be developed, and probably will be. But what we know as South End will continue to expand.”
So south and west it must go.
West to Wilmore
The evidence that multifamily is moving well west of Tryon street is there in dirt and concrete and sweat.
Work is well under way on Faison’s Summit at Church apartment complex. With the slab foundation nearing completion and walls starting to go up, Chris Fetter, project manager with Faison, expects units to be available next April and the 196-unit project complete by July.
A block west of there, on a smaller, 1-acre site at Summit and Southwood, MPV Properties has two alternate plans, starting with a three-story office building.
“We initially bought it for a 56,000 square foot office building, and we still have those designs and could move forward, if we found an anchor tenant or anchor buyer,” said Mark Newell, a partner at MPV. “With vacancy low, and it’s such a great site, on a hill overlooking downtown and thestadium, we still have high hopes for that.”
And then there is the back-up plan: a four-story, 150-unit apartment building.
“We’ve been approached by many, many multifamily developers,” Newell said. “That area, just west of South End, is very active and will get even more so as South End keeps getting filled up.”
The single-family market is heating up in Wilmore, too, as evidenced by walking down West Kingston and West Park avenues, just north of West Boulevard and west of South Tryon Street. Bungalows and colonials like you might find on the other side of the tracks in Dilworth are being renovated, and new infill homes are going up, too.
Merritt Scheller bought the cute but nearly dilapidated little 1,400 square-footer on 0.14 acres at 1505 Southwood Ave., near the intersection with Summit, for $126,000 last April. Since then, the 30-year-old first-time homeowner has been overseeing an $82,500 renovation that included gutting the place and adding a roof-level terrace, which will afford Scheller and her partner, Brad Allen, unobstructed views of the uptown skyline.
“We lived in an apartment in South End, at the Circle,” now known as the Post South End, Scheller said one sunny day while painting outside.
“We love the area, and when we were ready to move into ownership, we didn’t want to leave, and this was something I could afford” on her salary as a hair stylist at Carmen! Carmen!, and his in a parking business, Scheller said. “It’s Wilmore, but it’s becoming South End. And it’s booming.”
Showcase Realty LLC owner Nancy Braun, whose standing as one of Charlotte’s busiest Realtors was recently recognized by The Wall Street Journal and Real Trends, says she wishes she had invested in Wilmore – which has been gentrifying in fits and starts since the 1990s – before South End began to creep ever closer.
“It’s a hotbed for investors,” said Braun, whose office is nearby at South Mint Street and West Summit. “It took a real sleeper during the recession, but when the housing market picked back up, it became a target for out-of-town real estate investment trusts and individual investors.”
“I see a lot of activity every day, major renovations going on, and new construction. There’s the Unknown Brewery going into this big beautiful old brick building on Mint. Wilmore is getting pretty cool right there in that area.”
Living along the light rail
This vintage fourplex apartment building at 241 W. Kiingston Ave. in Wilmore has been renovated and converted into condominiums. Increasingly more homes in the northeastern.end of this once-prosperous and now resurrecting neighborhood thanks to its immediate proximity to South End. Photo by Tony Brown
Andy Misiaveg, a partner in the Charlotte office of the Atlanta-based Shopping Center Group, suggested that a more accurate name might be the Rail District, but the more marketable one remains South End.
“It’s definitely going to be coming down South Boulevard, and it will probably continue to be called South End, the way people who live out on Rea Road say they’re in Ballantyne,” Misiaveg said. It’s becoming a larger area, and South End is an easy way to label a project that gives it market identity.
“And it’s mostly due to the light rail.”
Misiaveg said the type of retail and restaurants likely to be seen along South Boulevard – now home to strip malls and strip joints alike – will be those skewed toward the young and hip.
“The nuances of the demographics in South End feel younger, a little lower income than say, Myers Park, more used to urban living, denser living units.”
Both Misiaveg and Culbertson said that the Publix on South Boulevard will be a catalyst for a retail revolution on the street.
“A big grocery store means you have a community,” said Culbertson, whose company represented Publix in the development deal.
“Ideally, I could walk or ride my bike to the grocery story. Publix was the last thing South End was lacking. Now it is a credible neighborhood. I look to see smaller retailers, national retailers, restaurants and coffee places. It’s going to have a real identity.”
Culbertson said he thinks the impact of South End will stretch as far as Scaleybark Road because of what he sees on the Pappas Properties website’s projects page: Three huge developments clustered around the Scaleybark Lynx station, which is in a median of South Boulevard.
Representatives of Pappas/Cherokee, Crosland and Myers Chapman could not be reached for this story, but the plans on the Pappas site trumpet the triumvirate project with the title “Scaleybark: Charlotte’s Next Great Transit-Oriented Development.”
If half of it comes true, that will not be an overstatement.
For their part, Pappas/Cherokee have on tap 900 residential units, both for sale and rent; 125,000 square feet of retail; 90,000 square feet of office; and 150 hotel rooms, all located on the west side of the tracks on the former site of the Queen Park Multi-Cinema and its still-standing landmark tower/sign.
Just to the south, the site plan shows Myers Chapman developing 383 more apartments.
On the east side of the boulevard, on the current Crosland Centre site, Crosland Souteast plans 400 to 500 residential units, both for sale and rent; 131,000 square feet of retail; and another 72,000 square feet of offices.
The projected pricing isn’t cheap. Pappas/Cherokee estimate they can get an average $350 a square foot on the for-sale residential units. The Myers Chapman apartments would rent for as much as $2,100 a month.
“That’s just huge,” Culbertson said.
“Now that South End is expanding, and has everything it needs, if I were under the age of 40, I would live in South End,” Culbertson continued.
“If I worked uptown and wanted to live in an apartment, I would live in South End. If I wanted to walk or bike to the store, I would live in South End. There is a real market for all that, which is why prices have continued to rise where they haven’t in the rest of the city.”
In other words: No matter which way you go, there are South Endless possibilities for South End.by